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Indecent exposure is the deliberate exposure by a person of a portion or portions of his or her own body under circumstances where such an exposure is likely to be deemed an offense against prevalent standards of decency [1] and may in fact be a violation of law.


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In most public places other than designated areas where nudity is acceptable such as in nude beaches, unwelcome exposure of an adult's genitalia is the most common example of indecent exposure. More specific cases of indecent exposure may also involve masturbation, sexual intercourse, etc. in a public place. [How to reference and link to summary or text]Indecent Exposure is also the name of a tasmanian punk band memberes Jacob Clamp, Joseph Bender and Damien Richardosn.

During the Victorian era, exposure of a woman's legs was considered indecent in much of the Western world. As late as the 1930s, both women and men were largely prevented from bathing or swimming in public places without wearing bathing suits that covered above the waist. An adult woman exposing her navel was also considered indecent in the West up through as late as the 1960s and 1970s. Today, however, it is not uncommon for women to go topfree at public beaches throughout Europe, South America, Australia and New Zealand. Meanwhile, many other types of societies worldwide currently enforce strict standards of bodily modesty, an example of which is the Burqa formerly imposed upon women by the Taliban regime of Afghanistan. In Pakistan, exposure of any part of an adult woman's body is considered indecent except for ‎arms up to elbows, feet and head including neck; however, wearing half sleeves and ‎keeping the head uncovered are considered liberal and modern rather than the norm.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

What qualifies as indecent exposure varies with the authority having jurisdiction. Indecent exposure is often prohibited as a criminal offense. For example, before the Labour Party of the United Kingdom revised the law, "indecent exposure" was defined exclusively as a man exposing his erect penis to the public. [How to reference and link to summary or text]

Although the phenomenon widely known as flashing may be free from sexual motive or intent, it nonetheless requires the public exposure of the genitals and/or female breast or vagina and is therefore defined by statute in many states of the United States as prohibited criminal behavior.[1]

Breastfeeding does not constitute indecent exposure under the laws of the United States, Canada, or Scotland.[How to reference and link to summary or text] In the United States, the federal government and the majority of states have enacted laws specifically protecting nursing mothers from harassment by others. Legislation ranges from simply exempting breastfeeding from laws regarding indecent exposure, to outright full protection of the right to nurse. However, mainstream ambivalence towards breastfeeding may prevent many women from exercising this right. Laws protecting the right to nurse aim to change attitudes and promote increased feelings of freedom and entitlement to breastfeed in public.[How to reference and link to summary or text]


  1. Merrian-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition (Merriam-Webster Inc., 2001), "indecent exposure" p. 589

See also

de:Nude in Public
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